12 Home Design Improvement ideas you should consider when building your new home. These simple gems will return huge dividends and may increase your home's value
There is SO much to consider when building a home. Whether you are building your primary residence or a vacation home, these tips may help. Friends of ours stopped by for a visit Saturday afternoon and were excited to share photos and plans for a new vacation home they are building in Stowe, VT. This is their first time building and they had just left an 8 hour meeting with their builder and electrician. Wow!
Customizing an existing plan vs building a custom home. Our friends didn't want a "custom home", they just wanted to customize an existing design to make it more suitable for their family. Perfect for a couple who cannot be "local" for the project and a couple building their first home.
A collection of great home design ideas that make sense. My dad, an architect, used to say that it takes building 3 houses to finally get the perfect home. Most folks aren't up for that challenge! Over the years, we've learned that the simple, often overlooked features in a home are the ones that we use everyday.
We shared our list of ideas with our friends and they liked most of them. I thought I'd put them together in a blog post to share with you. I'm sure other real estate folks will have many, many more great ideas to add to this list. These are just a few of my personal favorites.
Home Features To Consider Adding To Your New Construction Wish List
1) Electrical outlets:
- In the mantel: A must-have to plug in holiday decorations. Easy to install during construction, not as easy after the fact, especially with a custom mantel or stone mantel.
- On the kitchen island: Wouldn't you think every single builder would just do that? You'd be shocked at how many don't. We actually put the outlet right in the middle of a huge island. It rotates up when we need it and lays down flat when not in use. The best design we've ever had.
- Under each window: Similar to the mantel outlet, it is surprising how many houses never have outlets under windows. How are you going to plug in those holiday window candles?
- Bathroom or laundry closet: For plugging in shavers, dust busters, etc.
- Bedroom: Extra non-switched outlet(s) at bedside for phones, ipods, laptops, etc.
- Under the vanity in the bathroom. Not as weird as it sounds. If you have a vanity in your bath that is designed to have a chair (think, ladies makeup area), having an outlet lets you plug in items like hairdryers and makeup mirrors, then store them under the vanity rather than on top. No more crowding the vanity top and no more unplugging and storing these items every time you use them.
- In the roof soffits: Here I go again with the Holiday lights...but how about even plugging in things like those winter roof and gutter ice-melt cables.
- In the garden: Yes, we have been able to add low voltage lighting, lights for our outdoor Christmas tree, even water pumps for the water feature without major hassle because we got the electrician to add outlets in the front and back yard. Not just on the house, but out in the yard. Cheap during construction and before that lawn goes in.
2) Heated garage: This went on my list when we built a house in Vermont. Certainly not for everyone, but I'm a believer in having a garage that is 50 degrees, even when the outside temp is below 10. A car covered in snow on arrival is snow-free and relatively warm when you head out for skiing the next day. Our dogs also appreciate having a warmer place to sleep when we don't want them in the house. Remember, if you decide to heat, you'll want to also insulate the garage, another thing most builders don't do. More info here.
3) Hot water faucet in the garage: A lot of folks have a cold water spigot in the garage, but adding a hot water line is easy stuff during construction. No worries about frozen water pipes if you also heat the garage.
4) Drain in the garage floor: Goes along with #2 and #3 and is also great when cleanup time comes for dogs, cars, kids, etc. Not all areas will allow a garage drain, but if your does, think about adding one. More on garage drains.
5) Radiant floor heating: One of the more expensive items on our list, but now that I've experienced it, there is no going back. We decided to run the radiant right out to the garage, easy to do in construction, not so much post-construction. More on radiant floor heating.
6) Driveway alarm: I am thankful for this every single day. We have a driveway that is just over a quarter mile long and I wouldn't be able to see or hear cars turn into my drive until they were outside my door. When I hear the alarm, I look out to see who is coming...and it gives me about 2 minutes to 'get ready'. More info on driveway alarms.
7) Mud Room: Another idea that may be more of a cold-weather climate idea. A small area that can accommodate wet, muddy, snowy shoes near a side or back entrance is a must-have for our family. Ideally, we can close this area off to keep the mess somewhat contained / undetectable. A bonus in this area; coat hooks, bench and even a cleanup sink or 1/2 bath, especially with children!
8) Cold Temp and Water Leak Alarms: Think second home in a cold part of the country. Our friends needed to add this because they weren't going to be in their home for long stretches of time. If your home loses electricity and you don't have a backup generator to power the furnace, pipes may freeze and you'll have a major mess. Or, if the freezer decides to defrost, or the washing machine blows, you'll want to know. In nearly 25 years of living "up north", we've had a cold-temp alarm go off twice and water alarm once. I was really, really glad we had them.
9) Standby Backup Generator: Whether you actually buy the generator when you move in, or you wait til another time, having your home pre-wired to accept a stand-by generator is a great thing to do.....and much easier to take care of during initial electrical setup. Just having the wiring in place improves your home's value. While you're at it, pour a concrete slab to put the generator on. Better early than waiting till the lawn is in. How to choose a standby generator.
10) Wiring for extras like speakers (indoor and outdoor), security systems, etc. Again, whether you add these things on move-in or prep for later, running wire before sheetrock/drywall is way better than after. Most folks think of speaker wire, but not everyone thinks to run the wires to their 3-season porch or deck. Put a volume control in each location to...you'll be glad you did.
11) Outdoor ceiling fans - Fans in 3-season porches or on covered patios and balconies is another over-looked great idea. It is amazing how much a nice fan breeze can improve your ability to sit outside. Even with our hard winter weather, our outdoor porch ceiling fans have lasted over 10 years without a hitch. It also helps shoo the bugs away so we can eat outside in the summer.
12) Empty PVC pipe under the driveway: You never know what you are going to want to fish under your driveway one day. Invisible dog fence wire? Electrical? Who knows. Just put in a path from one side to the other and you may avoid cutting through your driveway one day. Cheap and easy to do, before the driveway goes in.
Are any of these interesting to you? Do you have other ideas? Let us know. I love this stuff and enjoy passing along ideas to friends.
Photo credit: Barb Henry